February 15, 2017 |

Nearly 70 years into existence, Pakistan remains stymied with various aberrations such as Fata, the judicial interventions in social affairs of the citizens, and the state’s indirect support — both political and financial to organisations that are directly or otherwise complicit in promoting and practising terror or extremism. Fata is one of those abnormalities that the military establishment and the civilian ruling elites had until recently exploited for narrowly-defined national security and political objectives. The overwhelming desire that we could discern through a national advocacy campaign — both on print and electronic media — in recent years weighed in support of Fata’s integration with the mainland. That is why all of us have been looking forward to the implementation of the draft reforms that the Sartaj Aziz committee had come up with. Fortunately, most of the stakeholders embraced the proposals as the first big step towards Fata’s integration, largely into the K-P province.

But some politicians including Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Achakzai appear to have played as spoilers. Despite the massive public and political support, these two have continued to drag their feet and openly resisting certain proposals. Ironic indeed, that both enjoy the fruits of parliamentary democracy with their near and dear ones enjoying prestigious positions within the government and parliament, while they object to a framework which promises to finally treat people in Fata as equal citizens. This court order stands out as a blatant violation of the Article 8 of the constitution (Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights to be void). It also flouts the Articles 14 (Inviolability of dignity of man, etc), Article 20 (Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions) subject to law, public order and morality. The same article says that (a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions. Isn’t it alarming that the judiciary, which is supposed to adjudicate matters in the best possible secular way, begins to determine issues such as morality or religiosity? Their mandate is to determine crime and not sin, to guard against deviations /violations of the constitution, and not undermine them. Adjudication of matters on religious grounds also contravenes Art 25 (Equal Citizenry Rights).In fact, the First Amendment jurisprudence (introduced by the US Supreme Court) clearly ruled that “civil courts cannot adjudicate disputes turning on church policy and administration or on religious doctrine and practice.”

Much later in 1985, the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders laid down some basic principles. “The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, …improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason,” it said. Another aberration is the acceptance of banned non-state actors,albeit under different names, most of them headquartered in Punjab; while the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was banned in Jan 2012, it attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in March 2009. Its chief, Malik Ishaq, used to receive monthly stipends by the ruling PML-N. Tens of dozens of seminaries associated with LeJ, Lashkars and Jaish also receive funding from the Punjab government’s Zakaat and Auqaf fund. This happens because many people siting in the national and provincial parliaments as well as a number of rightist anchors and columnists adore and defend the Taliban and their ideological brothers, and keep inventing pretexts to justify their violence.

It is this mass of opinion multipliers that primarily creates the space and justification for violence and extremist ideas directed at all those who disagree with them. Foreign hands will always exploit this to peddle their own agenda i.e. create instability and uncertainty in Pakistan. The Lahore attack is the latest example of the deadly connivance and unpardonable acquiescence of non-state actors by those running the state. A flagrant aberration indeed.

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